Venezuela’s opposition concludes “standard session” to reject Maduro

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© Reuters. Opposition leader Juan Guaido greets supporters on a visit to a polling center in Caracas

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CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition, led by Juan Guaido, held a “popular consultation” on Saturday to reject President Nicolas Maduro’s government after boycotting a congressional vote last Sunday.

The consultation, which practically started on Monday and ended with a personal vote on Saturday, targeted the participation of around 7 million Venezuelans, at least 50% of whom live outside the country, according to organizers. Results were expected later on Saturday.

The effort was aimed at helping the opposition demonstrate widespread opposition to Maduro, but in itself does not offer a clear path to a change of government or a solution to the difficult economic situation facing the OPEC country.

Last Sunday’s opposition boycotted general election brought Congress back to Maduro’s allies despite a ruined economy, aggressive US sanctions suppressing the OPEC nation’s oil exports, and the migration of some 5 million citizens. It was the last state institution that was not in the hands of the ruling Socialist Party.

The idea of ​​a popular consultation was first proposed in August by opposition leader Guaido, who is recognized by dozen of countries as the legitimate president of Venezuela after Maduro’s controversial re-election in 2018.

Opposition leaders and most Western nations said the elections had been stacked in favor of Maduro, who was widely criticized for his human rights record and undermining democracy, in order to stay in power.

On Thursday, Maduro said that “no internet consultation has constitutional status (…). Nobody could believe that an internet consultation has any legal value.”

Blanca Marmol, a former Supreme Court judge who helped organize the effort, said at a press conference: “This is, I would point out, the last resource we have in the Constitution.”

Organizers on Saturday reported incidents in 11 of Venezuela’s 24 states, with police and ruling party supporters removing some opposition pages for informal voting.

Marco Blanco, a 54-year-old taxi driver in the western Caracas neighborhood of Catia, said he was unaware of the vote.

“I heard about a request, I don’t know what it is for,” he said. “I listened, but very vaguely. Almost nothing.”

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